Yesterday, we were watching “Top Chef” on TV, the French equivalent of “Master Chef”: young chefs competing for the title. The contestants work under pressure and a lot of them are not accustomed to talking in front of a camera. So there is a lot of slang – not bad slang, just everyday French slang. But modern, current French slang.
These modern French slang expressions are like a new language to me (I’m 44). Of course, you still have the traditional French slang, verlan etc… but also a lot of brand new idioms.
Thank goodness, my daughter Leyla (11 years old) is there to explain some of these… I thought I’d make a list and then share them with you. I may have a hard time translating this, so bear with me!
“Être au taquet”
To be on Fire
“Un taquet” is a piece of wood that you use to hold / block a door. So, if you are blocked, you build up a lot of energy. Then, you are ready to explode. And that’s when you use this expression.
- Au début de l’épreuve, les candidats étaient au taquet, et ils se sont défoncés.
At the beginning of the contest, the candidates were on fire, and they gave it all.
We also use “être à fond” – to be 100%.
“J’ai la gnac”
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I’m super motivated
Believe it or not, this expression comes from an old French patois called Gascon. How it became a current slang word is a mystery to me, but it is very used nowadays. It means to be very motivated, and can be spelled lots of ways: “niaque”, “gnaque”…
- J’ai la gnac, je vais tout faire péter !
I’m super motivated, I’m going to explode it all.
“Faut que tu te bouges. Point barre.”
You need to step-it-up. Period.
The entire French expression is “se bouger les fesses” (or more vulgar, “se bouger le cul”), meaning to move your butt (or ass).
“Bouge”, or “Bouge de là” means “move out of the way”, so it’s the idea of moving to the side. But when you use the reflexive “se bouger”, the meaning is different.
“Point barre” means full period. Or period and a slash. So it means it’s the only thing you have to do, no need to comment or say more about it, end of conversation.
- Allez, ne te dégonfle pas. Rien n’est perdu : il faut que tu te bouges, point barre.
C’mon, don’t give up. It’s not lost yet: you have to step-it-up. Period.
“Faut pas que je me loupe”
I can’t screw up.
The French slang verb “louper” is not particularly modern. It’s been around for some time now, and is slang for “rater”, “échouer”, “manquer”.
- J’ai loupé mon train = j’ai raté mon train = j’ai manqué mon train = I missed my train.
- J’ai loupé mon exam = j’ai raté mon exam = j’ai échoué à mon exam = I failed my test
What is really new about it is the reflexive use: “se louper”. Used for a single person, it means to mess up. Used for several people, it means to miss each other as in to fail to meet up.
- On avait rendez-vous dans une gare, et on s’est loupés : j’étais d’un côté de la gare, et elle de l’autre.
We were meeting up in a train station, and we missed each others: I was in one end of the station, and she was at the other end.
We also use: “se planter”. This expression was already around when I was young, it’s very used in French.
Note how the “il ne” of the “il ne faut pas” dropped. This is modern French for you…
- Putain! C’est chaud là… Faut pas que je loupe.
(Not translatable… sort of “fuck” but less strong). It’s really difficult. I can’t screw up.
“Je suis grillé”
This French slang expression has exactly the same meaning as in English: “je suis grillé” means “I’m toast”, done, finished. You can also say “c’est grillé”, or “c’est foutu”, both slang for it’s over.
- C’est la fin de l’épreuve, et j’ai tout foiré. Je suis grillé.
It’s the end of the test, and I screwed up. I’m toast.
We have 2 fun “traditional” idiomatic expressions for say the same thing:
- Les carottes sont cuites – the carrots are cooked
- C’est la fin des haricots – it’s the end of the beans.
Both mean that it’s all over, and there is no more hope.
Voilà, you will for sure run into these modern French slang expressions on TV or watching a French movie, but you will certainly not find them in books! I hope this is helpful to you. Remember, don’t use them unless you are fluent in French and… under thirty…
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